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Chaos in Gweru: Floods Leave Trail of Destruction, Urgent Aid Needed

THE onset of the rainy season induces feelings of fear and anxiety for many residents in Gweru due to the high risk of flooding as a result of a poor drainage system under the opposition-run local authority.

“We don’t relax when it’s raining as we take turns to stand on the window to monitor the water level, and are always on the lookout for flooding. We are just living in constant fear,” Mr Xavier Matarutse from the city’s Montrose suburb said.


His house has been flooded several times, first during the 2021/22 rainy season, and on Tuesday he suffered the same fate when heavy rain pounded the city.


The rapid expansion of the city and the poor drainage infrastructure have exposed the entire city to surface water flooding in residential areas, especially those on low-lying ground and wetlands such as Mkoba 4, 11, 9, and Montrose, Ascot Infill, and Mtapa suburbs.


On Tuesday, a two-hour heavy downpour left Gweru residents counting their losses as flash floods caused damage to many properties in the city, including buildings in the city centre.


Those who were at the iconic Boggie Tower Clock, motorists and pedestrians had trouble manoeuvring as the flash floods filled the pothole-riddled roads.


“We had a sleepless night after heavy downpours flooded my home. We were forced to use buckets to scoop out the water from the house.


“Blankets, clothes, and household furniture were all drenched in floods and this is taking a toll on me,” said Mr Matarutse.


He said when he was looking for a house to rent, he never thought that he was going to stay in a house constructed on a wetland.


“This affects us mentally because when it rains at night, we can’t sleep. We take turns watching the rain from the window standing guard for the floods but as always, we are losing the battle,” said Mr Matarutse.

Mrs Evelyn Moyo from the Mtapa suburb said their area was also prone to flooding, which distresses most residents.


“We are not settled when it rains for fear of flooding,” she said.


Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana, also took to social media platform X (formerly Twitter) to express his dismay over the flooding experience in Gweru.


“Most affected were Mambo and Ascot high-density suburbs where families were using buckets to scoop out the water. Poor drainage and poor council planning is the main cause,” he posted.


According to Mr Peter Makwanya a Climate Change Researcher and lecturer at the Zimbabwe Open University, many urban areas are on the frontline of negative impacts of climate change.


“Whether in Harare or Gweru CBD and all other like areas, it has to do mostly with initial planning and material rehabilitation,” he said.


“For instance, in Gweru we have settlements in the flood plain lying adjacent to the Gweru River. It is supposed to be a breathing space where flooded water should be deposited away from the concentrated urban densities. “Now that the flood plain is no more and has been replaced by residential areas, flooding still maintains its path and course, notwithstanding that there are houses built in error.”


With the growth in urban population, which exerts pressure on land use practices, experts say the increasing incidents of flooding are also damaging the road network. Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association director Mr Cornelius Selipiwe said mental health issues were now a major challenge for those affected by flooding.


“What we are seeing is a result of a plethora of challenges that have been bedevilling our city for a long time. We have a challenge in maintaining storm water drains but it is not only the council to blame but residents as well,” he said. “Residents must not dump litter in storm drains. The local authority must make sure the storm drains are always cleared and there is a need for civic education.”


Mr Selipiwe said the construction of houses in wetlands must be dealt with to restore sanity while ensuring that private contractors invest in proper drainage systems when servicing stands.


“Some of the flooding is taking place in settlements started by private housing developers. I think there is a need for a design or plan from the council in terms of servicing stands. Right now, every developer is doing what they want without proper servicing of areas and this has resulted in recurrent flooding of people’s houses,” he said.


Gweru City Council spokesperson, Ms Vimbai Chingwaramusee, blamed vendors and residents for blocking drainage systems through dumping of litter and planting vegetables and crops along waterways.


The local authority has since set up evacuation centres in Mambo (Shumba Hall), Senga (Ingwe Hall), Mtapa (Mtapa Hall) and Woodlands (Nazarene Church of Christ), Mkoba 2 Hall, Mkoba 10 clubhouse and Muwunga Primary School for flood victims.


In 2021, Gweru residents experienced floods in most low-lying areas of Mkoba, Nashville, Athlone, Riverside and Ascot. Chronicle

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